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   Chapter 11 LESSONS GATHERED FROM DEFEAT

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 4879

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


General Braddock, with the most stupid disdain of both natural obstacles and native advice, especially regardless of Washington's warning, pushed on to overwhelm the French and Indians, as he had outlined to Franklin. His disastrous defeat and tragic death awoke the colonists to their danger, but it seemed to have little effect on the arrogance and ignorance of the supposed military protectors of the colonies.

Fugitives from the disastrous battle field spread through the colonies and the news ran from mouth to mouth along the wilderness roads, gathering in exaggeration as it went. To counteract this news at his own home, Washington wrote to his mother as speedily as possible. Referring to the battle, he said, "The Virginia troops showed a good deal of bravery, and were nearly all killed. The dastardly behavior of those they called regulars exposed all others, that were ordered to their duty, to almost certain death; and, at last, in spite of all the efforts of the officers to the contrary they ran, as sheep pursued by dogs, and it was impossible to rally them."

In writing to his half-brother, Augustine, he said, "As I have heard, since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you that I have not composed the latter. But, by the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability, or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, though death was levelling my companions on every side of me!"

The defeat of Braddock, we may safely set down as one of the most extensive liberating forces in the new world. It struck out of the minds of the colonists the respect and fear which held them captive to the mastery of hands from across the sea. The disaster was not only a rout and a slaughter but it was at last revealed as a military disgrace and an inexcusable blunder.

The commander of Fort Duquesne had only a handful of men. He was fully decided on either abandoning the fort at once, or in surrendering on the best terms he could get, when Captain de Beaujeu obtained leave to take two hundred and eighteen French soldiers and six hundred and thirty Indians, eight hundred and thirty-five in all, for the purpose of delaying the British advance by ambush. These forest rangers met Braddock's twe

lve hundred select soldiers, and threw them back in such a panic that, when the commander, Dunbar, reached Fort Cumberland, where there were fifteen hundred more seasoned troops, no stand was made, but the flight was continued on to Philadelphia.

Washington in Command.

Washington's intimate associate, Dr. Hugh Mercer, was so severely wounded in the shoulder that he could not keep up with the fugitives. He hid in a fallen tree and witnessed the terrible scenes of the battlefield after the soldiers had fled. The wounded were tortured, scalped and all were stripped of everything the Indians could use. Then the wild horde left, yelling through the woods, waving aloft the scalps. The Indians were bedecked with glittering uniforms, and loaded with booty.

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography that "this whole transaction gave us the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the powers of British regular troops had not been well founded."

What Washington thought about it all is well summed up and very tersely expressed in a letter to his half-brother Augustine. It shows us what all this had done for the loyal and patriotic mind of Washington. It reveals how his mind, like that of other colonists, was being prepared for the event, that led to a break with the home-country England.

In that very expressive letter he says, "I was employed to go a journey in Winter, when I believe few or none would have undertaken it, and what did I get by it?-my expenses home! I was then appointed, with trifling pay, to conduct a handful of men to the Ohio. What did I get by that? Why, after putting myself to a considerable expense in equipping and providing necessaries for the campaign, I went out, was soundly beaten and lost all! Came in and had my commission taken from me; or, in other words, my command reduced, under pretense of an order from home (England). I then went out a volunteer with General Braddock, and lost all my horses, and many other things. But, this being a voluntary act, I ought not to have mentioned it; nor should I have done so, were it not to show that I have been on the losing order ever since I entered the service, which is now nearly two years."

This historical summary was the experience in divers ways of very many colonists, but they did not have any; suggestion of how that bitter experience was really to become a great blessing to the cause of liberty throughout the earth.

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